Bangkok is hot, humid and, most of the time, it’s incredibly uncomfortable to be outside. It’s the last place you would think would have a thriving running community, but it does. At every park in Bangkok, you’ll see runners from dawn until dusk and, every Sunday there are 5K and 10K races all year round.
There are runs to benefit charity, running clubs, marathons sponsored by major international companies, and even temple runs. These clubs and runs are not only a great way to exercise and have some fun, but also a great place to meet people – Western expats and Thais – who might have similar interests to you.
If you haven’t started running in Bangkok yet, one of the best places to start is your local park.
Lumpini Park in downtown Bangkok is the best place if you’re anywhere close by. It’s an enormous public park where you’ll find runners at all times of the day and every day. People start running as early as 4am, so you can get a good run in before you head out to work. At 8pm, people will still be running there, so no excuses after you’ve finished work and would rather head home to veg on the coach. One lap around the park is about 1 ¾ miles.
Once you’ve managed to get in shape, there are running events all over the city, all of them welcoming Westerners and Thais alike.
One great place to start is with the Bangkok Monday Hash House Harriers. This is a group of Westerners and Thais who run every Monday night starting at 5:30pm. Every week, they start at a different way place in Bangkok, run for anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour, and then head to a pub or restaurant for dinner and a few beers.
It’s a fabulous way to get in or keep in shape, and to meet a fun group of people to socialize with. Each run costs 200 baht (about $6) and that includes the beer after the run. Great thing about this too is they usually run in out of the way places, so you’ll see a lot more of Bangkok than you would otherwise.
Running is actually a popular sport in Bangkok. Every week there are runs and hundreds of people turn out for them.
Most runs in Bangkok are on Sunday mornings and start at 6am while it’s still cool. They usually incorporate a 10K run and a 5K run/walk. One of my friends goes to one almost every Sunday, has gotten some very cool t shirts, and met interesting new friends. Thai mini runs, unlike Western runs, usually bring out the whole family, who have an amazing amount of fun as they jog around the course. Of course, there is also copious amounts of food available afterwards, just like everywhere in Thailand – so you won’t go hungry.
There are also many Thai running clubs in Bangkok. At these, you will find very few Westerners and those who are there usually speak very good Thai. But, if you’re wanting to run and get some practice learning a new language, one of these running clubs could be a great place for you to do both.
Check out the Thailand Tourist Information Office, Robinsons Department Store bill paying counter, and Central Department store bill paying counter – they often have brochures from all the different running clubs and runs in Bangkok. Some of them are in English, some are in Thai, but they’ll all have a phone number or e-mail address where you can get more information on the upcoming Sunday run.
Races and Marathons — Some of the large international corporations in Bangkok also sponsor runs and marathons. One of the biggest is the Standard Chartered Bank Bangkok Marathon. Held in November every year, it attracts runners from all over the world. One year, it was dominated by African runners, 14 of whom took the top 14 places (the 15th place being taken by a Thai runner).
Also, outside Bangkok but extremely popular with Bangkok runners, is the famous River Kwai International Half Marathon.
This year’s half marathon is in its 35th year. It’s limited to only 1,500 runners as it’s held in and around a national park, so there are always concerns of too much damage being done to the area by too many people. Even if you’re not a runner, it’s worth going up to Aumphur Saiyok where the race is held as it’s so beautiful. There are several hotels around this area and, as it’s only 200 kilometres from Bangkok, it’s a wonderful place to go for a weekend trip and to see a fun sport in action.
You can find out more information about upcoming Bangkok and Thailand running events on the Run Thailand website.
So if you’re thinking of getting back into shape, staying in shape, or just wanting to get out and meet people, running in Bangkok could be the way to do it.
It is hot, it is polluted and, the first few times you try, it will probably almost kill you. You will get used to it though and soon you’ll be a member of an elite club, one that enjoys a good run while they see so much of Thailand’s beautiful capital city.